Updated: Nov 5, 2019
It is the age old question. Why do bad things happen to God's people?
To explore that question, let's look at the prophetical book of Habakkuk.
First of all, I used to say Habakkuk wrong.
Listen to this to hear how it is pronounced.
Rundown of history again before we look at Habakkuk:
God gives His people the Promised Land. After they conquer it (book of Joshua) they are ruled by Judges (book of Judges.) Then they ask God for a king so they can be like the other nations. God allows it. They have a united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon. Then Solomon’s son, Rehoboam takes over and oppresses the people. Civil war breaks out. 10 tribes break off and form the Northern Kingdom. They are called Israel. The 2 tribes, Judah and Benjamin, stay around Jerusalem and are called the Southern Kingdom, Judah.
The Northern Kingdom does evil in God’s sight. Pagan worship. Idolatry. God sends prophets and they don’t listen. They had 20 kings (the books of 1 and 2 Kings) all of which were bad kings in God’s eyes. Finally God judges the Northern Kingdom, Israel with the brutal Assyrians in 722 B.C. The people from the Northern Kingdom who survived, intermarried with the people the Assyrians brought in and this race was called Samaritans.
The Southern Kingdom doesn’t do much better. They also had a series of 20 kings (the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.) They would have a good king followed by some bad kings. God would send prophets. Sometimes revival would occur. A king or two would turn back to God and follow Him. Then bad kings again. The last good king was Josiah 640-609 B.C. After Josiah the kings of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, were very evil.
In 612 B.C. the Babylonians defeat the Assyrians and become the dominant world power. The Babylonians had made a rapid rise to power. Then they defeated Egypt. They were as wicked as the Assyrians.
So sometime near the end of the reign of the good king Josiah and before the first invasion of Judah by the Babylonians in 605 B.C. is when Habakkuk prophesied. It was just before Judah was judged by God with the Babylonians and just before Daniel was carried into exile in Babylon (which I just wrote several posts on.) Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.
Remember the prophetical books are not in chronological order. They were organized in our Bibles by the 5 major prophets first (major just mean long books, not more important) and then the 12 minor prophets (just as important.) Habakkuk is a minor prophetical book because it is short. It's a good idea to figure out what time period in history the prophet is speaking to before reading a prophetical book.
The book of Habbakuk is different than any other prophetical book. In all the other prophetical books, the prophets were relaying God’s words to the people. Mostly "Repent and turn from your sin. Turn back to God or you will be judged." The prophets sometimes foretold future history. And most importantly they point to the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world. But the frequent message in the prophetical books is the prophet saying, “Turn from you sin. Come back to God.” And frequently the people ignored the message from God through His prophets.
But Habbakuk is different in that he had a conversation with God and this book documents that dialogue. Habakkuk was witnessing great evil in the nation of Judah. They were morally and spiritually corrupt. They had turned away from God. (See 2 Kings 23:26-27.) They worshipped Baal on the high places, offered child sacrifices to Molech, and allowed the temple to fall in ruin. Wickedness and oppression were rampant in Judah and God was seemingly doing nothing about the evil. Habakkuk wanted to know 'Why God? Why aren’t you doing something about this?' (Don't we often ask Him the exact same thing?) Rather than speaking God’s word to the people, Habakkuk was asking God to act.
Habakkuk’s 1st complaint to God 1:2-4
How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.
God to Habakkuk 1:5-11
God answered Habakkuk. God was about to do something. God was about to judge Judah by bringing in the horrific Babylonians to conquer them. (The Chaldeans are the Babylonians.) What God says will happen comes about. God does judge Judah. In 586 B.C. the Jewish nation is wiped from the political map when the final Babylonian invasion takes place and Judah is conquered.
“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.”
Habakkuk’s 2nd complaint to God 1:12-2:1
Habakkuk just can’t believe God’s answer! This wasn't what he wanted to hear. Yes, Judah is doing evil, but how could a loving good God use the horrific Babylonians who were much worse than His people to bring about His good? 'I mean really God. We are bad, but they are so much worse!’
Habakkuk says he will wait for God's answer (Habakkuk 2:1)
God to Habakkuk 2:2 -2:20
"But the righteous will live by his faith."
Note the five woes that apply to Babylon and Judah (and to us).
Woe #1 Takes what isn't his
Woe #2 Put yourself before others
Woe #3 Violence
Woe #4 Sin and cause others to sin
Woe #5 Idol worship
God puts Habakkuk in his place.
“But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”
And how does Habakkuk respond? In faith. Habakkuk praises and glorifies God.
His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. (3:3b)
His ways are everlasting. (3:6b)
You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. (3:13a)
How did Habakkuk respond? He accepted God’s will.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us.
He recognized God is God. He is sovereign. He controls everything and His ways are good (even though it wasn’t going to feel good to be invaded by the Babylonians.) God was going to bring salvation to His people rather than let them continue in their evil ways. Their suffering would make them return to God. And it did. So it was a very good thing. God is good.
Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.
Habakkuk responded to the impending invasion with faith in his God.
Habakkuk knows God is in control and the outcome will be good in the end. How does Habakkuk know this? Because he knows God is good.
So why do bad things happen to God's people?
My mother died of a heart attack when I was 20. I over and over asked God why He took her. Decades later I still can't answer the why. But now I know Who God is. I am sure of His character. He is loving and good. And He is sovereign and in control of our lives. What God does is to bring about His plan for our salvation. If that means we must suffer for that plan to occur - whether it be for our own salvation or to bring about the salvation of others - then we must suffer. We can rest in God's care and His will and let Him give us peace and let Him help us or we can fight Him and turn from Him. That choice is ours. But God's plan will come about. He is sovereign. What He does is for our good. We may not understand His ways. We may not get why something horrific is happening to us. We may leave this earth never knowing what the good was that God brought about from it. Habakkuk was no different than we are. Like Habakkuk, we must live by faith.
God has made us promises in the Bible. I had so many doubts about the claims of Christianity until I read the Bible. It has made all the difference in my life. I know God's character. I know His promises. I believe Him. I hold onto that in the midst of a storm.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
And what is the "good" that God causes? Romans 8:29 tells us it is for us "to become conformed to the image of His Son." He is making us more like our Lord.
So you thought I might have a pat little answer to why bad things happen to us. I don't know why they do. I'm not God.
But I do know God from reading His Word. And I trust Him that He has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11) and He will bring good from whatever happens in my life.
And rest assured, in the end God wins. Good triumphs over evil. Justice will be served. And we get to be with Him for all eternity. Smile.
Until then, have faith.
[Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Ephesians 2:8]